Oregon AG Loses Fight to Restrain Trump’s Policing Portland
Oregon was denied a temporary restraining order it sought against federal agents detaining anti-racism protesters in Portland without giving a reason.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who sued the U.S. last week over the alleged conduct, had asked the court to stopDepartment of Homeland Security agents andU.S. Marshals from detaining people without probable cause or a warrant, and to require them to identify themselves in making arrests as well as explain that the person is being arrested and why.
U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman denied the TRO, saying Oregon failed to prove its standing to sue.
Sheila Potter, an attorney for Oregon, said during oral arguments Wednesday by videoconference that federal agents were grabbing people and marching them into an unmarked van.
“That is terrifying,” she told the judge.
The state admitted it didn’t have “a shred of evidence” that counter-protesters have “ever, anywhere, kidnapped a protester or anyone associated with protests”, calling the argument “utterly implausible.”
“I do not discount the animosity among these groups and had I been asked to assume that something would result in fistfights, or theft, or destruction of signs, or damage to vehicles, that would have made sense,” the judge wrote. “But the idea that seizures by law enforcement will lead to kidnappings by private parties is a bridge too far.”
Friday’s ruling follows an order issued Thursday by another Portland federal judge temporarily barring federal agents from arresting, threatening or using physical force against journalists and legal observers at the protests. More than a dozen journalists and legal observers claimed they were tear gassed or shot with munitions by agents despite being clearly identifiable.
In yet another case, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the U.S. and Portland on behalf of volunteer street medics, alleging officers attacked them during the demonstrations.
President Donald Trump has deployed the agents amid the sometimes violent protests in Portland, part of a nationwide outcry following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Trump said he’d also send federal officers to Chicago and other cities, drawing criticism from local officials, Democrats, civil libertarians and others.
Amid poor re-election polling, the president and his allies have seized on the protests to paint Democratic-controlled cities as letting “anarchists” and criminals run wild, even though the vast majority of the protests around the country have been peaceful.
Seattle is shaping up to be the next battleground. U.S. Attorney Brian Moran said in a statement on Friday that U.S. agents being deployed to the city “are here to protect federal properties and the important work that occurs in our courthouses and federal buildings.” He added, “Last weekend, the Nakamura Federal Courthouse was broken into, a smoke bomb and an American flag were burned, and the building was tagged with graffiti inside and out.”
In the Wednesday hearing, Oregon’s attorneys argued that the arresting officers’ behavior violated First Amendment protections of free speech and assembly by discouraging demonstrations. The conduct also violated Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful seizure, they said.
Oregon relied on a statement by Mark Pettibone, who said he was detained while walking home on July 15 after “peacefully” participating in a Black Lives Matter demonstration.
The government argues that agents need to make split-second decisions, and requirements like those requested by Rosenblum would take too much time. The U.S. also contends that Oregon isn’t in a legal position to sue on behalf of a single person.
Justice Department attorney David Morrell said the order Oregon sought could have a “chilling effect.”
“It just is a very bad precedent for a court to superintend law enforcement operations in an incredibly trying, dynamic and violent atmosphere,” Morrell said.
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